What is rosacea?

Causes of rosacea

Rosacea appears to be caused by a complex interaction of many factors.

  • Genetics: rosacea tends to be more common in families, especially those of northern European descent. A genetic change seen in people with rosacea can predispose to inflammation of the blood vessels and skin follicles of the face.
  • Environmental factors can trigger inflammation of the blood vessels in the skin
  • There may be increased numbers of the normal skin mite Demodex folliculorum, or an imbalance in the organisms in the gut
  • In rosacea, the skin barrier may not function effectively, leading to water loss and dry skin
Rosacea affecting a woman's cheeks, nose and eyes
Rosacea affecting cheeks, nose and eyes. There is a combination of redness, prominent blood vessels and pimple-like papules.

Symptoms of rosacea

Rosacea is more than a simply cosmetic concern. It has many different combinations of symptoms. For most people with rosacea, the condition is usually lifelong, and symptoms will come and go over many years. Treatments are usually effective for months to years, but constant attention to skin care is necessary and occasional maintenance treatment is required to control symptoms.

Symptoms of rosacea include:

  • Facial redness with constantly red cheeks or nose
  • Episodes of increased blood flow in the face, causing uncomfortable and embarrassing flushing
  • Prominent blood vessels on the face, visible as a fine network of overgrown red capillaries (sometimes called "spider veins")
  • Small pimple-like lumps, which may resemble acne
  • Sensitive skin
  • Sore and red eyes
  • The skin may be dry or oily
  • Rosacea over many years can lead to rhinophyma— overgrowth of the skin of the nose — with a bulbous, misshapen appearance. This is more common in older men.

Symptoms of rosacea are commonly caused by triggers such as heat, exercise, alcohol or spicy foods. For more information, see our Rosacea triggers page.

What are the treatment options for rosacea?

The best way to treat rosacea is by using a combination of skincare with low-irritant products, minimising exposure to triggers, topical or oral medications and light-based treatments such as laser or intense pulsed light (IPL).

The following treatments are available at Spot Check Clinic:

Laser treatment

Laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment (we refer to both as “laser” for convenience) can help reduce persistent redness and visible capillaries. Laser uses a very bright light applied directly to the skin to destroy overgrown blood vessels.

Laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) is the best treatment to remove or reduce the appearance of capillaries.

It can also be effective in managing other intermittent symptoms such as flushing, redness, skin irritation and sensitivity. In cases where laser does not reduce these symptoms, a course of oral or topical medication is usually recommended.

Laser can also treat sun damaged skin or cosmetic concerns such as freckles and angiomas.

Before and after photos

Woman's face before and after IPL treatment for rosacea, showing improvement in redness of the nose and cheeks
Rosacea before and after treatment with BBL (the IPL laser we use at Spot Check Clinic). Image courtesy of Sciton Inc.

For more before and after photos and information about treating rosacea with laser, IPL and broadband light, see our page about IPL treatment for rosacea.

Medications

Prescription creams and oral medications are helpful in managing flushing, redness and inflammation of the skin but unlike laser, cannot effectively treat facial blood vessels.

Prescription creams

Topical treatments (creams or ointments) usually need to be applied once or twice daily for up to three months. Topical medications commonly prescribed for rosacea include antibiotics, medication to kill skin mites, or anti-inflammatory products.

Oral medications

Oral medications are often prescribed if topical therapy is not effective. These medications may have side effects and are not always safe to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so they are not usually recommended as first line treatment.

More information

For more information about medications for rosacea, see our page Treating rosacea on the face.

Managing your rosacea

Controlling rosacea requires more than laser treatment or medications.

It’s important to look after the skin carefully and minimise exposure to triggers that make the condition worse.

Your skin care routine

A healthy rosacea skin care routine follows three basic principles:

  1. Avoid substances that irritate the skin(fragrances, alcohol-based products, harsh and drying soaps, some-mineral make-up
  2. Protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation by using a low-irritant sunscreen every day
  3. Use skin products that help settle inflammation. These include moisturisers and cleansers containing nicotinamide, colloidal oatmeal, aloe vera, panthenol, gingko biloba and bisabolol (chamomile extract). Anti-oxidant products such as vitamin C and green tea can also reduce symptoms.

More information: See our article about Treating rosacea on the face

Knowing your rosacea triggers

Many different triggers can lead to rosacea flare-ups. These can include sun exposure, exercise, alcohol and certain foods and drinks.

Once you identify triggers to rosacea, avoid or minimise exposure to them as much as possible.

More information: See our article on Rosacea triggers

Rosacea treatments at Spot Check Clinic

Spot Check Clinic offers treatments for skin cancer and sun-damaged skin, but rosacea is a condition seen very frequently in people attending the clinic.

Our skin cancer doctor has qualifications in primary care dermatology. You don’t need a specialist referral from your GP to book a consultation with our doctor.

Rosacea treatments offered at spot Check Clinic include:

  • Prescriptions for topical creams
  • Prescriptions for oral antibiotics
  • Intense pulsed light therapy using BBL (broadband light) IPL technology which usually causes less pain and downtime after treatment compared with laser
  • Low level light therapy: a gentle light which relieves inflammation and provides energy for cell metabolism. Suitable for people who can't take prescription medications or tolerate BBL treatment.
  • Monitoring for treatment effect, and adjusting the treatment plan if required
  • Advice on skin care and recommendations on products to manage rosacea symptoms

In complex or resistant cases, we can refer to patients to a dermatologist for a prescription for more specialised medications, vascular laser, or laser or surgical treatment for swelling of the nose.

Book a rosacea assessment appointment

Call our Melbourne CBD clinic on 03 9098 7474 after 8:30am Monday to Friday to book a rosacea assessment appointment with our doctor. (Online bookings for rosacea assessment are coming soon.)